Western Canada

ethanz

1DX II
CR Pro
Apr 12, 2016
1,174
459
ethanzentz.com
Hello everyone,

A friend and I are interested in vacationing in western Canada this August with a car. What are some of the top places to visit and things to do? What is it like camping in those places? I read through the previous thread about this, but am hoping for some more input. I know there is one CR member who definitely knows the area (and posts pictures from there all the time).

(Anyone willing to let a fellow Canon-ite stay with them would be welcome too ;))
 

Ryananthony

EOS RP
Nov 7, 2015
498
2
ethanz said:
Hello everyone,

A friend and I are interested in vacationing in western Canada this August with a car. What are some of the top places to visit and things to do? What is it like camping in those places? I read through the previous thread about this, but am hoping for some more input. I know there is one CR member who definitely knows the area (and posts pictures from there all the time).

(Anyone willing to let a fellow Canon-ite stay with them would be welcome too ;))

Western Canada is huge, where abouts are you planning on heading?
 

ethanz

1DX II
CR Pro
Apr 12, 2016
1,174
459
ethanzentz.com
Ryananthony said:
ethanz said:
Hello everyone,

A friend and I are interested in vacationing in western Canada this August with a car. What are some of the top places to visit and things to do? What is it like camping in those places? I read through the previous thread about this, but am hoping for some more input. I know there is one CR member who definitely knows the area (and posts pictures from there all the time).

(Anyone willing to let a fellow Canon-ite stay with them would be welcome too ;))

Western Canada is huge, where abouts are you planning on heading?

I know it is. Our last road trip we drove 6000 miles. So most things really aren't out of the question.
 

R1-7D

EOS RP
Jun 25, 2012
746
98
Canada
I live in Alberta, and it's the heart of Western Canada. You'll want to come to Alberta and spend some time in the national parks, such as Banff. Morraine Lake and Lake Louise are a must. But do some research; there's a ton to see here.
 

HarryFilm

EOS RP
Jun 6, 2016
705
166
In terms of camping, if you go in the spring/summer many sites in the Vancouver/lower mainland/vancouver island area will be already booked by March!

There is a BC Camping booking website "BC Parks Reservation Service" (do a search on google) where you can pre-book a specific site in many parks (some have fees, many don't). These managed parks (i.e. Golden Ears Park or the Harrison Lake area) have nice amenities like well maintained beaches, washroom facilities and showers (and some even have food kiosks and laundry!)

If you want TRULY WILD camping, I suggest some of the parks or unmanaged Crown Land (i.e. public land Wild areas) on Northern Vancouver Island past the City of Comox and past Sechelt/Sunshine Coast on the mainland side.

I also suggest driving to Kelowna on Lake Okanagan which is a HUGE lake. Many of it's beach areas are free during the day but some parks do charge or need to be BOOKED ONLINE for overnight camping before March/April for a daily fee. Of course, if you go onto Crown Land that is free but you might have to use a 4x4 vehicle to drive on old logging roads!

Do remember that many parts of western Alberta and British Columbia are TRULY WILD areas which mean Bears (Black bears and Grizzlies) and Cougars (mountain lions) and plenty of deer may be present. I ALWAYS suggest bringing bear spray and maybe a cheap satellite phone (about $300 US if you buy used) for emergencies. If you are from the USA, do remember that handguns (i.e. 9mm or .357) are BANNED ALL OVER CANADA so don't bring them. The border services people WILL arrest and jail you if you do have them! You ARE allowed to bring long-guns (i.e. hunting rifles) if you have your requisite permits from Canada BEFORE you go over the US/CANADA border.

Do also be aware that if the summer time gets unusually hot (i.e. last two years!) that campfire bans may be in effect which means you will have to bring along a small (or large!) propane barbecue to do your cooking as there will be no open campfires or fire-pits allows during the dry season (June/July/August).

One place I REALLY LIKED was near Smithers and New Hazelton in British Columbia. There is a GIGANTIC park called Omineca Provincial Park and Omineca Protected Area which is bigger than some entire States! That is a TRULY WILD area and do bring your camera to MAYBE get that million-dollar photo of Sasquatch (aka Bigfoot) which has supposedly been seen MANY TIMES in the area! The many decades-old logging roads going to the Babine Lake and surrounding area have some great small streams to fish in and camp nearby. That is for the really WILD camping!

If you like more "Civilized" accomodations and more urban things-to-do, then I highly suggest Lake Okanagan, Shuswap lake and just outside of Vancouver i.e. Harrison Lake and Manning Park.

And finally do remember these areas such as BC/Alberta are HUGE and bigger than the state of Texas! So on logging roads bring LOTS of extra fuel because there might not be a gas station for sometimes up to 200 miles in the Northern areas!

For more information, see the "BC Parks - Province of British Columbia" website!

I hope this helps!
 

ethanz

1DX II
CR Pro
Apr 12, 2016
1,174
459
ethanzentz.com
Thanks for the wealth of information Harry.

Any recommendations for other places at Banff to stay at besides http://www.assiniboinelodge.com/ they seem quite expensive.
 

stevelee

FT-QL
CR Pro
Jul 6, 2017
1,941
709
Davidson, NC
ethanz said:
Thanks for the wealth of information Harry.

Any recommendations for other places at Banff to stay at besides http://www.assiniboinelodge.com/ they seem quite expensive.

I stayed in the Fox, so named because it is near where Fox St. comes into the main drag. It was part of a package with my Rocky Mountaineer trip, so I don't know the cost, but it should be relatively reasonable. I took the low-end hotel version of the tour. The people on the high end stayed at Banff Springs, a Fairmont. The Fox was modern and clean. They have a pool you can soak in from a hot spring. The night before I had stayed at the Lake Louise Chateau, and my room at the Fox would have fit in my bathroom there.

Spend some time in the Jasper area. That may be the prettiest area of all, including lakes that have already been recommended. Between there and Lake Louise, tour the places along the ice field route, including going out to walk on a glacier. Nearby is a triple continental divide. I found that area so scenic that I made a panorama in Photoshop and printed it out on 13"-wide roll paper. I think the resulting picture is about 3 feet wide. I had it framed, and it hangs over my mantel.

Besides that corridor, I would recommend following the Fraser and Thompson rivers as much as you can in a car. That is very scenic between Jasper and Vancouver. Vancouver is an interesting city in itself. And if you get that far west, you will want to go to Victoria on Vancouver Island and also tour the gardens on the island.
 

ethanz

1DX II
CR Pro
Apr 12, 2016
1,174
459
ethanzentz.com
Wow, Chateau Lake Louise is even more expensive than Assinboine and you have to pay for every single activity! I've heard Lake Louise is very crowded and touristy.
 

Talys

Canon 6DII
CR Pro
Feb 16, 2017
2,076
357
Vancouver, BC
HarryFilm said:
If you like more "Civilized" accomodations and more urban things-to-do, then I highly suggest Lake Okanagan, Shuswap lake and just outside of Vancouver i.e. Harrison Lake and Manning Park.

Ohh. I can second Harrison Lake. You can enjoy the hot springs and the whole spectrum of restaurants for the "civilized" part, and there are amazing photography opportunities, especially if you go when it's not a downpour (unless you like photography in the rain). Everything from spectacular landscapes to eagles and other wildlife.
 

stevelee

FT-QL
CR Pro
Jul 6, 2017
1,941
709
Davidson, NC
ethanz said:
Wow, Chateau Lake Louise is even more expensive than Assinboine and you have to pay for every single activity! I've heard Lake Louise is very crowded and touristy.

At the time I booked the trip I asked about upgrading the hotel to the Chateau and was told "Everybody stays at the Chateau." So it was on the low-end version of the tour as well as the high end. I added an extension to Victoria to the tour, and the agent said they would have given me an extra free night in Vancouver, but since I wanted to go to Victoria, my free night would be there. I stayed at the Empress. I didn't do the $70 afternoon tea, though.

A longtime online acquaintance lived in Calgary, so when he found out I would be in the area when he was home with some time off from work, he came over and paid for our breakfast/brunch buffet. It was nice to meet him in person.

I know a lot of people go there, but it is a spacious area with trails into the mountains and such. The morning in July that I went out making pictures around the lake, this is how crowded it looked:

IMG_0956.jpg


This is the terrace beside the hotel, leading right up to the lake. The path goes around the right side of the lake, so I walked out to the end and back while taking pictures. The light was changing all the time, and I was seeing things from the opposite side, so I took about as many pictures on the way back as I had going out. This is the view of the hotel from the other side of the lake:

IMG_1012.jpg
 

Jack Douglas

CR for the Humour
Apr 10, 2013
6,747
2,222
Alberta, Canada
It would probably help if you were a little more specific on details. I live in Alberta and love to travel to BC but try to avoid the commercial areas because my love is more for untouched beauty and fewer people. I absolutely loved my Edmonton to Prince Rupert to Haida Gwaii trip which could be described as the opposite to Banff.

That trip primed me for this year's Bella Coola venture into the great bear rain forest, which I'm presently researching. For me camping means unserviced 20' RV parking since I have solar. I'm too old to enjoy tenting.

If you are interested in Haida Gwaii PM me and I can answer questions. Otherwise all the well known spots in Alberta/BC are really nice and especially the drive from Banff to Jasper. There are loops within the interior of BC that are very nice and scenic. Barkerville is a very interesting ghost town and well worth visiting.

If in Saskatchewan, the Qu'appelle valley is an oasis in a prairie wheat field desert.

Typical scene between Banff-Jasper.

Jack
 

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AJ

EOS RP
Sep 11, 2010
697
111
Note that Assiniboine is a backcountry lodge. It's a short helicopter ride or else a ~15 mile hike. The area surrounding it is spectacular.

I suggest purchasing a copy of "How to photograph the Canadian Rockies" by Darwin Wiggett and building some of your itinerary around that.
 

ethanz

1DX II
CR Pro
Apr 12, 2016
1,174
459
ethanzentz.com
AJ said:
Note that Assiniboine is a backcountry lodge. It's a short helicopter ride or else a ~15 mile hike. The area surrounding it is spectacular.

I suggest purchasing a copy of "How to photograph the Canadian Rockies" by Darwin Wiggett and building some of your itinerary around that.

Yes, I am very intrigued by Assiniboine Lodge. Even figuring in the helicopter ride, it isn't much more than other places in Banff.
 

Monchoon

EOS M6 Mark II
Jan 22, 2014
77
0
ethanz said:
Ryananthony said:
ethanz said:
Hello everyone,

A friend and I are interested in vacationing in western Canada this August with a car. What are some of the top places to visit and things to do? What is it like camping in those places? I read through the previous thread about this, but am hoping for some more input. I know there is one CR member who definitely knows the area (and posts pictures from there all the time).

(Anyone willing to let a fellow Canon-ite stay with them would be welcome too ;))

Western Canada is huge, where abouts are you planning on heading?

I know it is. Our last road trip we drove 6000 miles. So most things really aren't out of the question.
Where do you think you might be mainly. Is your vehicle AWD 4x4 ( I know you said car, but) I wouldn't be taking a car on some of the logging roads in BC.

Remember Western Canada spans from BC to Manitoba. Also what are looking to photograph, wildlife landscape etc. both or just take a tour and have a great time, or maybe both.
 

ethanz

1DX II
CR Pro
Apr 12, 2016
1,174
459
ethanzentz.com
It would be a rental car, could be an SUV if necessary, but we probably wouldn't be going on crazy dirt roads.

Well I'm not really sure where, mostly looking for ideas of great places.

This is a rough idea of a possible trip itinerary:
 

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ahsanford

Particular Member
Aug 16, 2012
8,617
1,642
Banff, Lake Louise, Lake Moraine -- all of it. Highest possible recommendation.

- A
 

HarryFilm

EOS RP
Jun 6, 2016
705
166
If you want to stay in Banff National Park, may I suggest INSTEAD of staying in Banff itself, but rather stay in Canmore which is a 30 minute drive (or so) outside of town.
There are over 50 hotels and bed and breakfasts to stay in there and the VIEW is STUNNING. Prices usually are about $90 CAN ($70 US) in the GOOD but cheaper places

I like the Silver Creek Lodge for its NICE and NEW amenities and it was SOOO MUCH QUIETER at night than the ones on the main highway:

https://www.tripadvisor.ca/Hotel_Review-g181727-d1238001-Reviews-Silver_Creek_Lodge-Canmore_Kananaskis_Country_Alberta.html

For the price, it's kinda hard to beat!

NOW if you want TRULY CHEAP but still good then as an avid mountain-hiker, etc...all the "Sporty Types" like to stay in the Bow Valley Motel. This is where the extreme skiers, mountain bikers, kayakers, etc. stay who have INTERESTING stories to tell...The rooms are BASIC but clean and VERY INEXPENSIVE compared to everywhere else!

For decent food, ANY one of the diners and hotel cafes on the main drag will do! They are almost ALL very good and some are very much world class dining!

For British Columbia Lower Mainland, I would actually go on Craigslist and try to rent a suite in one of the local houses within the town of Harrison itself on OUTSIDE along riverside or near Sasquatch Provincial Park...you will definitely get better rates because the Harrison Hot Springs Resort is pretty TOP-RATED and expensive with a VERY NICE SPA!

http://www.harrisonresort.com/accommodations/

For Manning Park, I would suggest the following:

https://manningpark.com/


For Kelowna and surround Lake Okanagan areas, I suggest:

http://www.lakeokanagan.com/guestrooms.php

or

This was my favorite:
Manteo Resort - Waterfront Hotel & Villas
https://www.tripadvisor.ca/Hotel_Review-g154933-d212085-Reviews-Manteo_Resort_Waterfront_Hotel_Villas-Kelowna_Okanagan_Valley_British_Columbia.html

I was rather impressed by the dinner menu and wine selection and i'm hard to please in that area!

For Comox, I suggest

Kingfisher Oceanside Resort and Spa
https://www.tripadvisor.ca/Hotel_Review-g181789-d185452-Reviews-Kingfisher_Oceanside_Resort_and_Spa-Courtenay_Comox_Valley_Vancouver_Island_British_Col.html

for its waterside rooms with a very nice view!

The bistro is GREAT but do note in the summer it is not as quiet as other places because the buildings are older and people LOVE to celebrate their good times there!


Can't compare the oceanside views though AND it's a pretty great meet-new people-party gathering place IMHO!

On the Sunshine Coast, I suggest Egmont:
https://sunshinecoastcanada.com/explore/south-coast/egmont/

Try and get a boat tour to Princess Louisa Inlet it is the Canadian Rainforest version of the Island of Kaui aka the Garden Island --- Princess Louisa is the Rainforest Inlet!

Otherwise, if you want WILD camping then any forest service road that is not blocked and is on CROWN LAND (i.e. not private owned) will work, so just keep driving WITH a 4x4 until you find the view you want and park off to the side
and bust out the barbecue and beer and keep your Cameras ready for getting those AWESOME photos of Sasquatch, bears or cougars!
 

StoicalEtcher

EOS RP
CR Pro
Jan 3, 2018
396
341
Yorkshire
ethanz said:
It would be a rental car, could be an SUV if necessary, but we probably wouldn't be going on crazy dirt roads.

Well I'm not really sure where, mostly looking for ideas of great places.

This is a rough idea of a possible trip itinerary:

There is a cost implication of course, but I would strongly recommend a 4x4 if you can.

There are some fine roads in that part of the world, but there are few of them - and many, many interesting places to visit by following the lesser roads off the highways, and the weather also has a habit of occasionally depositing debris around.

Outside of the major tourist spots, you may find you wish you had a bit more traction and clearance to get to ideal spots for landscape or wildlife opportunities (and whilst you can walk off the beaten track, BEAR in mind there will be wildlife around too).
 

AJ

EOS RP
Sep 11, 2010
697
111
ethanz said:
It would be a rental car, could be an SUV if necessary, but we probably wouldn't be going on crazy dirt roads.

Well I'm not really sure where, mostly looking for ideas of great places.

This is a rough idea of a possible trip itinerary:

In August you will not be needing an SUV. The roads here are paved or good quality gravel. I'd sooner spend the money on a camper van. It'll make for a much more memorable trip compared to motel rooms.

I'm not sure how much time you have, but that's an ambitious itinerary. You'll be spending a lot of time driving. Personally I'd concentrate on the Banff-Louise-Jasper road and spend most of my time there, with detours into Kananaskis and the east and west Kootenays. But I'm from Calgary so maybe I'm biased.

I see tourist buses to the Banff-Jasper highway in a day. That's just crazy. I've spent a lifetime exploring and I still haven't seen it all.

My tip: go camping at the Columbia icefield, then before dawn hike up to Wilcox Pass to watch the sunrise over the Columbia icefield. If it's a clear day your jaw will drop, guaranteed.
 
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